The CrossFit Open: Stop Whining About Muscle Ups
CrossFit Games: Stop Whining About Muscle Up!
I am going to tell you why I think it’s so stupid to complain about muscle ups.
1) You don’t need to do them at all.
If you are not good at them, then just stop reading now.
2) They are only one part of your workout.
There are other parts which will make you better than if you didn’t have any muscle up exercises at all! (You already know what they are. Just read the rest of this article!)
3) They are fun!
So much fun! And you will get a nice feeling when you complete them. That’s something that everyone needs to experience at least once in their life.
4) They are effective!
When done correctly, they will definitely improve your strength and endurance. If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m talking about muscle ups here, not other types of exercises like pullups or dips.
What do I mean by done correctly?
Watch this video:
The thing that I really like about this video is that it shows how to complete the exercise correctly. For example, in many videos you will see people wrap their legs around the pole and kick from there. Unfortunately, most people haven’t developed enough strength in their upper body to do that!
Instead, wrap your legs around a pole and lift yourself up!
The thing that I don’t like about this video is that the guy gives you too much information. You just need to know the basics first, everything else comes later! Let me break it down for you:
Hand placement: The rings are going to spin, so you need to have your palms face each other or else your hands will slip off. Grip: Get a firm grip. This doesn’t mean squeezing your rings so hard that your hand turns purple!
It just means that you grab on and your hand doesn’t slip. Feet placement: Place one foot against the bottom of the rings, this will prevent them from spinning.
And that’s it for proper form! Put these together and you’ll be able to do a few reps.
Now for some extra info. I’m going to talk about ring sizes, because not everyone has the same size rings.
Size of the rings: Choose rings that fit your size. Most people have either 15 or 12 inch rings. You want to have enough room such that your arms can place at full extension without hitting each other or the top of the rings.
If you have large hands, you may want to choose large rings so you can get a better grip. If you have small hands, you may want to choose smaller rings so that your hands don’t slide off.
Some rings are spring loaded, which means that they will bend towards each other when pressure is applied to them. I have no experience using these so I can’t comment on their quality. That being said, you probably wouldn’t want to use them for muscle ups since it changes the distance between the rings.
So now you know what size rings to get! Pick out some of your favorite color, or maybe some fancy ones if you’re into that kind of thing.
What size should you be?
I’m 5 foot 7 with medium sized hands, and 16 inch rings fit me well. Your arms may be longer or shorter than mine, so choose the size that fits you! You don’t want the rings too big or they will slip off, and you don’t want them too small or they will hurt your fingers.
Part 2: Getting started
So you have rings, now what?
Don’t start doing muscle ups right away! You need to warm up your muscles first, just like you would for any other activity.
Do lighter drills before you do muscle ups. I can’t give you a list of specific drills to do since everyone is a little different and has different strengths and weaknesses.
Here are some general guidelines however:
Start with some basic pullups. Do these traditional style where you put your palms towards you. Usually people can do less than 10 reps of these.
Do some pushups. Feet together, hands wide for more difficulty, hands together for less difficulty. Usually people can do less than 20 reps of these.
Now it’s time to wrap your rings. I recommend using the stretchy rope that came with your rings. Here’s what you do:
Put the rope through one ring and pull it tight. Take the other ring and place it in the middle of the rope loop. Put your foot on the rope and pull the ring until it is at the edge of the loop.
You now have a nice, folded over ring strap. Unfold it and place it around your rings. You want to do this twice, just in case one of the loops breaks during use.
Part 3: Muscle Up Progressions
Now that you have a good grip on your rings, it’s time to start doing some muscle ups!
I’ve found that the key to learning muscle up is to take it slow. There’s no rush to do a lot of them in a row since they’re so taxing on the body. You’ll get better in time.
In my experience, the best way to learn muscle up is to first practice the movement slowly and carefully until you’ve got it down. Slowly add height until you can do a full muscle up. Then, start adding speed!
Let’s go over some of the techniques to get you started.
Part 4: Muscle Up Techniques
The most important thing is that your body moves in a straight line. You can’t go up and down or twist as you do the movement or it won’t count.
Most people struggle with the transition from the dip to the pullup. Here are some tips to help you get past this point:
Practice the dip portion slowly. You want to lower yourself until your arms are almost fully extended, then pull back up. Do this slowly at first, then increase speed as you become more comfortable with it.
Try bringing your legs up as you dip. This extra momentum from your legs will make the dip easier and take some of the pressure off your arms and upper body. Lower yourself slowly as before.
Try doing a “kip up.” This is where you do a small jump at the start of the dip to give yourself some momentum. Then, lower yourself slowly as before.
The transition from the pullup to the dip can be hard too. Here are some tips:
Try doing “false grip” during the pullup portion. This means that you grab the ring with your fingers facing your body and not away from it like normal. This takes some pressure off your arms and allows you to use your bodyweight to help with the dip.
Try using an over-under grip for the pullup ring. This means that one hand will go over the ring and the other will go under it, like when you climb monkey bars. This allows you to push away from the ring a little bit during the pullup, taking pressure off your arms.
If these tips are still too difficult, that’s okay!
Sources & references used in this article:
Impact of CrossFit-related spinal injuries by BS Hopkins, MB Cloney… – Clinical journal of …, 2019 – cdn.journals.lww.com
CrossFit and rhabdomyolysis: A case series of 11 patients presenting at a single academic institution by BS Hopkins, D Li, M Svet, K Kesavabhotla… – Journal of Science and …, 2019 – Elsevier
Exercise addiction in CrossFit: Prevalence and psychometric properties of the Exercise Addiction Inventory by MB Lichtenstein, TT Jensen – Addictive behaviors reports, 2016 – Elsevier